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Chapter Notes: This chapter is in pieces because this site kept cutting it off in the middle. The music links will be at the true end of the chapter. Sorry about that. It looks fine in previews and then is all chopped up in the live post. REALLY frustrating!

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15. Life Is...

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Morning became afternoon. Mora sat comfortably by the oval window, watching the happenings in the house and out back. Kejal checked on him often. Aleexa made sure his pain stayed under control. Odo brought a seed pod inside and set it on the table by the flower Kejal gave him earlier.

Leruu walked out of his bedroom. Her pregnant belly gave her an adorable waddle. She leaned over and kissed his nose. "I have everything ready for you." She led his hand to her gravid midsection. The baby kicked. Her green eyes twinkled.

"Take me with you," Mora pleaded.

"Soon, my love." Leruu tapped on his nose.

Mora took a deep breath and stroked her belly. "How am I going to find you?"

"I'll come and point the way." She let her forehead touch his and giggled. It sounded like birds on a spring morning. "The rest will be up to you. Just follow your heart."

He closed his eyes. When he opened them, Leruu was gone.

As the day wore on, Mora had trouble breathing. His back hurt despite the pain medicine. Dozing let him escape it. Nobody disturbed him while he napped.

When the shadows outside grew long, Mora heard a voice calling his name.

"Doctor Mora? Doctor Mora."

Mora lifted his head. He smiled sleepily. "Sorry, Odo, I keep falling asleep."

Odo shrugged his shoulders. "It's all right. I let you sleep, but it's almost time to dose you again. Do you want to go back to bed?"

"Yes, please."

Mora could tell he was overdue for his medication. A gnawing ache filled his back and abdomen. His face twisted. He gripped the grab poles by the chair, but no matter how hard he tried he could not pull himself up. Each attempt sent stronger pains shooting through his spine.

Odo's eyes widened. "I'll go get-- "

"No!" Mora grunted.

"Doctor Mora..."

"I don't want anyone here...ex-except you." He sank back into the chair to rest. "I'm going to walk to my bed like a man."

The lines in Odo's face deepened.

"All right, Doctor Mora." He extended his arms and wiggled his fingers. "Take my hands."

Visions from the past filled Mora's mind. He chuckled despite his misery and reached out. Odo easily pulled him to his feet and slipped around to his back.

"I'll be right behind you," Odo said softly, his strong hands grasping Mora's upper arms. "Whenever you're ready."

Tears blurred Mora's sight when he forced himself to stand up straight. The sensations in his back and abdomen eclipsed the discomfort from his arthritic knee. His heart palpitated like it wanted to burst through his ribcage. Spots danced before his eyes. An involuntary moan escaped his throat. He cut it off and spoke instead. One word for each step.

"M-my father-- walked-- t-to his deathbed...like a-- like a proper man. He kissed mother, hugged me and-- he stagg-- augh!-- staggered into the...b-bedroom. We f-found him dead an hour...later. Heart attack...he knew it was coming. My father taught me how to die with-- dignity, and...ungh-- dammit! --I'm g-going to do this with...dignity!"

At his bedroom door, Mora shook Odo's hands off and limped the last three steps to his bed unassisted. He stumbled, falling against the side of the mattress. His pained grimace became a sly grin.

"See, Odo...I made it!"

And he laughed.

Delfeya syndrome, you might take my life, but you don't have my dignity. I took it back from you, you wretched disease! I've won!

Mora let Odo help him into bed. Walking took everything out of him. He no longer had the energy to vocalize the burning discomfort spreading up his torso like wildfire. His sides heaved with every breath he took, but he didn't care.

"I'll get your pain medicine. Here, take this first." Odo grabbed the oxygen mask off the shelf by the bed and placed it over Mora's nose and mouth. Then he gave him a dose of triptacederine. "Easy. Breathe. It will stop in a moment."

His circulation was so poor now. The medicine took almost three minutes to turn the supernova into a campfire. To him, it felt like an eternity.

"More," Mora coughed. Ooh, that really hurt.

"But the dosage chart for your body mass says-- "

"It's safe. Please..."

The hypospray hissed again, and the discomfort finally shrank to a manageable level. He relaxed, sighing. When medicated, he didn't feel pain as long as he refrained from bending at the waist.

"Now I know how you felt when you saw me in labor." Odo said. He replicated a cool wash cloth and pressed it to Mora's clammy brow. Oddly, the coldness helped him breathe deeper.

"Ah...yes..." Mora sucked air into his tired lungs. "You were so young, Odo." The mask muffled his voice. He took it off and held it against his chest. "So young when you came to me in a tiny jar..."

Odo tightened his jaw. "We can't change the past, Doctor Mora."

"Please, listen to me for once! Odo, I don't have time, I have to say this now...I was such a fool." Mora shook his head. "I didn't take your feelings into account. I didn't listen to you."

"You did everything right with Kejal."

"Kejal isn't you. Raising him doesn't erase my failure with you, Odo. I know this sort of talk still makes you uncomfortable, but I am going to say this anyway." Mora's eyes watered, and his voice cracked when he said, "You needed a father, and I treated you like a specimen. Everyone told me not to grow attached to you. I tried not to, but you were so vulnerable to the world, so eager to learn. You didn't belong in that lab."

"Doctor Mo-- "

"Odo, please...let me finish..."

Odo closed his mouth. Mora found himself fixed in his clear blue eyes. He gazed into them and spoke from his heart.

"You needed someone to guide you, and I didn't want it to be one of those damn Cardassians. Those parties...they were mistakes. All of them. I wanted to show off my research. I should have taken you away in secret, and I was too afraid of the repercussions. That's still no excuse. I was a coward. I was too prideful. I put my needs before yours. I was a fool. I'm sorry. I am so sorry. I'm not asking for your forgiveness, Odo, I'm only asking to be heard. I'm sorry. For the shocks, for the acid, for my arrogance, for everything...I'm sorry."

Frowning, Odo straightened to his full, imposing height. He turned his head and stared out the window. His profile looked so natural now, so far evolved from where he began.

Finally, he let his shoulders slump.

"Doctor Mora...I...I hear you. Don't get me wrong...but I must confess that I, too, have been avoiding this conversation." Odo stared at his feet. His reflection superimposed itself over the first evening stars. "I read a story from Earth once, while I was still living on Deep Space Nine. It's the novelized version of a film many centuries old. I didn't understand it until I saw how close Kejal is to you. I'm no Talaxian, but it's a story that must be told rather than summarized. Are you up to hearing it?"

Mora replaced the oxygen mask on his face and struggled for breath. Sometimes, he had to flex his jaw to get the air down his throat.

"I'm...listening, Odo," he said.

Odo began to weave the tale.

"An old wood carver named Geppetto wanted a son, so he wished upon a star. A blue fairy came from the star and brought one of his marionettes to life as a little wooden boy named Pinocchio. Geppetto was overjoyed to have a son at last, and all Pinocchio wanted was to become a real child."

He ducked his head again, and did not pull away when Mora grasped his hand.

"Pinocchio tried to be a good son to his father, but he was led astray by a pair of con artists. They tricked him into working for a puppeteer who made him entertain an audience for money. Pinocchio realized he didn't like it and tried to leave, but the puppeteer locked him up. He told Pinocchio that once he outlived his usefulness, he would use him as firewood. Can you imagine how terrifying that sounds to a being made of wood?"

"And a child, no less," Mora gasped. He saw where this was going, but he wanted to hear the whole story. "Go on..."

"The blue fairy found Pinocchio in the puppeteer's clutches. He made the mistake of lying to her about his capture, and it set back his dream to become a complete child. She said he would become real once he proved himself brave, truthful and unselfish...or something to that effect. Then she helped him escape.

"But once again, before he reached home, Pinocchio was drawn astray by the wrong crowd. He followed his new 'friends' to a magical island where delinquent children mutated into donkeys. The donkeys were put to work in a mine. Pinocchio watched one of his friends change before his eyes. Then he sprouted donkey ears and a tail, and it frightened him into escaping the island.

"When he returned to his house, he discovered Geppetto went out to sea in search of him, and during his search he was swallowed by a whale. Pinocchio rushed fearlessly to the ocean to rescue his father. He let the same whale swallow him, and against all logic he found Geppetto in the whale's stomach. They somehow made the whale sneeze to escape its stomach, and it was angry to lose its meal. So it gave chase.

"Geppetto was too weak to keep swimming. He told Pinocchio to swim for shore. Pinocchio refused to leave his father, and he dragged him into an ocean cave too small for the whale to follow. The whale slammed into the rocks, apparently killing itself. The impact threw Geppetto and Pinocchio out the other side. Geppetto was briefly knocked out...and regained consciousness to find Pinocchio dead."

Mora trembled and squeezed Odo's hand. "And...?"

"Doctor Mora, all Pinocchio wanted was to be a flesh and blood child like his peers." Odo whispered. He flinched, closing his eyes. "And the fairy saw his courageous, unselfish act and how truly he loved his father...and she granted his wish to belong. Pinocchio was resurrected as a child. A real child."

"Odo?" Mora gripped Odo's fingers. He commanded his bedside lamp to turn on, and it filled the room with a dim white glow. Taking off the oxygen mask, he said, "Odo, look at me."

"I-I...can't..."

Mora lifted his head off the pillow. "Odo..."

"Don't you see? Doctor Mora, I have always been an outsider looking in! Everywhere! Even among my own people! All my life, I've only wanted one thing, and I can't attain it! I give, and I give, and I-- " His voice rose higher and cracked. "It's all I wanted...to belong. To be the people around me. To laugh like them, to cry like them, to be loved like them. I never thought it possible until I met Nerys. But I still longed to have a parent like everyone around me. I didn't want Kejal to go through that pain, and I knew you would know how to raise him. And you did it well."

Suddenly, he leaned forward and something impossible happened to his face. "But I see you two, and as ridiculous as this sounds, I want that, too."

Mora reached up. He touched Odo's cheek. The droplet clinging to his lower eyelid morphed back into Changeling cytoplasm the second it lost contact with his skin. Another trickled free and merged back into his substance when it reached his chin.

He was witnessing an evolution. An opening. Here. Now.

Odo's features began to contort. He looked at his hands in a mix of terror and confusion.

Using the strength he could still muster, Mora pulled himself forward and truly embraced Odo for the first time in over thirty years.

Odo's hands pushed at his shoulders.

"Something's wrong. I'm-- " Two more teardrops spilled free. " --crying?"

He looked at Mora, his blue eyes huge. The same expression he wore after being bullied by Klingon children and giving up Kejal. No matter how his face changed, his eyes were still the most emotive part of him. And now they expressed the deep, unspoken agony he kept buried for so long.

"Yes." Mora brought him closer again. "You're crying."

"But I...w-why?"

"Because you just learned how," he replied. "You held these tears inside all your life. It's time to let them go. Let them fall, Odo. Just...let the tears fall."

At that, Odo closed his eyes. He hid his face and wept like a child on Mora's shoulder. Mora's nightshirt remained dry, but he didn't see Odo's tears as any less real than his own.

"I wanted-- to be-- real to you. The way you and Kejal...he is so close to you, and I never knew how to reach out." Odo choked on his words. "Now it's too late."

"No. No, Odo, it isn't." Mora said. It hurt, seeing the fullness of the pain he put Odo through, yet he was simultaneously grateful for witnessing its release. "We have right now. Here, lay down with me."

Odo climbed onto the soft mattress. His nose was running. That, too, dissolved back into his substance. He didn't appear to notice.

Mora braved the agony of moving again and settled on his side. He clutched Odo more protectively, erasing the last rift between them.

"You were always real to me, and now you're proving it to yourself. I'm so sorry for the times I caused you to believe otherwise. I made so many mistakes with you, and I can't take them back. But if I could, Odo...I would." He pursed his lips. "After you left, there was never a day that I didn't think about you."

"This is incredibly painful. Me. You. All of this."

"I know." Mora's eyes overflowed when Odo reciprocated his embrace.

"I'm at fault, too. I took everything out on you instead of talking to you. I don't regret leaving." He slowly regained his composure. "But I'm sorry for the way I did it."

"Shhh. That was then. You're here now." Mora smoothed Odo's hair with his palm. "And this, Odo," he jiggled Odo's shoulder, "this is healing. And we're achieving it together. Just like we used to."

"Together." Odo agreed. "But I think I'm a little old for this," he added without making any attempts to get up.

Mora barked in laughter and patted Odo's back. "Nonsense. Sons are never too old to need their fathers."

They were quiet for several minutes. Mora used the lull to focus on breathing.

Finally, Odo murmured, "Doctor Mora?"

"Hm?"

Odo's skin began to shimmer. He melted onto Mora's chest in his natural gelatinous state. Mora swallowed over the hot lump in his throat and ran his fingers through Odo's substance. Powerful images bombarded his mind like holographic movies on fast forward.

Cities rebuilding after a catastrophic war.

Colliding galaxies reaching a new equilibrium.

Sunrises following violent storms.

A tiny child racing into his father's arms.

"Oh..."

Tears welled in Mora's eyes. The pain in his back lessened as if someone reached inside his body and shrank the inflammation. He pressed his other hand to his mouth.

Odo reformed in the same position he was in before. "Are you all right?"

Mora sniffled and nodded. He dabbed the tears off his face with a fingertip still covered in Odo's substance. Odo touched his hand and absorbed the stray pieces of himself.

"Now that part of you is part of me." He whispered. "Any more regrets?"

"No. Not anymore." Mora said. He felt Odo embrace him again. His head sank back onto the pillow and his grip on consciousness slipped. He dreamed of Kejal coming into the room. Immediately upon waking again, he peered expectantly at the door.

"Oh, hugging!" Kejal appeared in the doorway. "Can I join?"

"Of course!" Mora pressed the control button that widened the left side of the bed and beckoned Kejal over. "Climb on behind me."

Kejal's arms joined Odo's. In seconds all three of them held each other.

"Now that you're both here..." Mora paused and took a few breaths off the oxygen mask before setting it aside again. Who kept sucking the air out of the room? "I'm surrounded by the best part of my life. I...I want to thank you two for everything. Both of you."

He glanced out the window. The stars glowing in the evening darkness weren't from Bajor's sky. They were too numerous, too close and too bright. He blinked, but the view did not change. When he looked straight ahead, he saw orange grass instead of his bedroom.

Kejal lifted his head. "You're welcome." Then he gave a little nudge. "Tell mother what you told me this morning."

"I'm going to die tonight." Mora said matter-of-factly.

Odo looked away. "I...had a feeling."

"Mm. When you look back on my death, remember me telling you this. Today was a good day." Mora's eyes crinkled. "A fantastic day."

"Doctor Mora..."

"Odo, it's just like my favorite lullaby. 'Mission is over, mission is done. I will miss you, children of the sun. Now it's time to go away...'" He found Kejal's hand and squeezed it. Then he kissed the top of Odo's head. "'Goodbye, goodbye, Milky Way.'"

Odo sat up halfway, his eyes wide. "You were the lights-out singer?"

Mora lifted both eyebrows. That memory took him way back.

"You heard me?"

"Yes...I never realized that was you. I, um..." Odo sighed. "I found it comforting."

"Oh..." Mora mused before taking another puff from the oxygen mask. He laid his head down on the pillow again, his gaze fixed on sky. "I'm glad it gave you something happy to remember."

Kejal pressed himself closer. So did Odo.

"I am at peace now." Mora murmured. He looked between the two Changelings, truly his sons in everything but genetic material, and grinned. "If anyone asks, tell them I died a happy man."

The strange grass kept tickling his ear. Outside the window, the stars became clearer as his eyes grew heavier. He found comfort in their gentle glow.

Kejal gripped his shoulder tighter. "I love you, father."

"I love you, too." Mora replied. He faced Odo. "And you. I love you."

"I know." Odo's mouth trembled. He pressed his lips into a line and whispered the next words. "I...love you, too."

Mora's eyes watered. He beamed in delight. Odo mirrored his expression. Finally, after all these years, they had a true connection.

"Thank you." He squeezed Odo's hand the same instant he felt Kejal rub his upper arm.

Everything fell into place at just the right time. His work was done.

Mora focused on his prayer shrine and mentally let go of his life.

"Do you need anything?" asked Kejal.

"No." Mora forced another breath. "My sons are beside me." He smiled again with tears in his eyes. "I have everything I need."

His senses blanked out. For a moment, he floated above the foot of his own bed, watching Odo and Kejal embrace him. Then he inhaled and fell back into his body. Pink spots clouded his vision as though he stood up too fast for his blood pressure to compensate. He couldn't stop gasping.

"Easy." Odo said, "We're right here."

Another breath, and he saw the roof of his house from above the deka tree. Once more, he realized he was in bed, not floating in the sky.

Mora noticed someone putting the oxygen mask on his face. He pushed it back off since it didn't help anymore. Somebody brushed their palm over his forehead. Another hand massaged his fingers. A cool washcloth kept his lips moist.

"Mother, I think he's going to sleep." Kejal kissed him behind the ear. "You can sleep, father...we won't leave the room. I promise."

He tried to smile, yet he couldn't spare the energy to respond anymore. Breathing became his sole focus. Each gasp drove him towards a gigantic unknown.

Odo moved off the bed. Mora felt him take his hand.

"Doctor Mora, if you're comfortable, squeeze my hand once."

Mora managed to close his fingers around Odo's. He stroked his knuckles with his thumb until he grew too tired to keep it up.

Every time he took a breath, he left his body and came back. His eyesight dimmed until he only saw pink "static" against blackness.

"It's all right. We won't leave your side." Odo whispered. Vaguely, Mora saw his face contort. "I'm here."

"You were a great father to me." Kejal pressed against his back. "Never forget that."

Mora grasped Odo's hand again. He found Kejal's and squeezed it too.

His eyes closed on their own. The blackness became more absolute and time lost all meaning.

A voice reached him from far away. "Hey, it's Nerys. I'll take care of Odo and Kejal. You don't have to worry about them. I don't want to keep you waiting if you're ready to leave us, so I'll go. But first..." She spoke in a whisper, "Odo forgives you. I don't know if he told you that, but I want you to know."

Kira's presence faded away.

Mora sensed a familiar membrane surrounding him. His breathing hitched. Just getting air into his lungs required so much strength. He could think of nothing else. While he struggled for air, the membrane made full contact with his body in slow, painless increments. He kept seeing shimmers, like he'd stepped into a transporter beam, except its center appeared brighter than its outer fringes. The glow made loud whooshing sounds. His sense of balance disappeared. He swore he was moving forward at light speed. Mora watched the brilliant central speck grow with a scientist's sense of detachment. Suddenly, he slammed into the end of the "tunnel" and realized he could see again-- clearer than he ever had before.

Aleexa's finger moved away from his left eye. He saw the foot of his bed. Aleexa whispered a heartfelt farewell before leaving the room.

Odo and Kejal sat on either side of him. They talked softly to each other about how he'd been there for them. Their voices were music. Light shone through their skin. Like stained glass windows lit by candles inside.

Life...he saw their life and the strength of their love for him and each other.

"I know what he's waiting for."

Kejal scooted closer. Mora sensed arms around his shoulders. His awareness stretched to encompass his whole body. He blinked and looked into Kejal's eyes, marveling at the glow they gave off. Everything created its own light. Even his own skin. Their combined essence brightened the room.

Kejal made a wisecrack about getting lost. Then he whispered reassurances that Leruu would be there soon. Mora let Kejal know he understood him before turning to Odo. He wasn't sure if he said goodbye out loud or not. Odo reacted by coming closer and shedding a tear. His blue eyes held an entire universe. By the Prophets, he was still so young.

A flicker drew Mora's attention to the foot of his bed. Leruu stood there, smiling. She shimmered beautifully and her pregnant belly glowed like a sun.

Leruu rubbed her swollen abdomen. "Pol, it's time."

Mora raised his eyebrows. He wanted the others to know she arrived, but his voice no longer worked.

He pointed to her.

"Is she here? I told you she'd come!" Kejal understood through faith, though not sight. "Go to her, father!"

Leruu winked and waddled away from the bed. Mora pushed himself up on his elbows. He tried desperately to follow her.

"You have to leave your body behind. You don't need it anymore." Kejal held him down. "Your work here is finished. We'll be fine. You can go now. It's okay. You can go."

"Everything is in order." Odo spoke with difficulty. "You've done all you can. It's time to rest. I won't leave your side. I promise."

Mora's physical body had no strength left. He turned inward, breathing and waiting. His senses disconnected one by one. Sight, smell, taste, touch...until only hearing remained. The dark numbness wasn't frightening at all because he was safe in the arms of people he loved.

He didn't resist the membrane contracting around him.

Odo's voice continued talking quietly in his ear

Tighter, tighter...

And then, with a final, vicious squeeze, Mora's prison ruptured!

The need for oxygen disappeared. His heart began to fibrillate. He could feel the vibration of it quivering. What a strange sensation.

Kejal said something to Odo. Odo responded in a hoarse whisper. They weren't sure whether he'd left yet.

Kejal, Odo, he thought, I hope this is enough of a sign for you.

Mora shed his body. It just slipped off like an old coat, leaving him to wonder what all the fuss was about. Below him, Odo and Kejal embraced his darkened mortal shell. Their combined light made his bedside lamp appear dim by comparison.

Odo sat up. Kejal blinked. There was minor confusion between them. They'd seen the sign, but only Kejal recognized it. He glanced upward, just to the left of Mora's actual position, and said to have a safe journey.

Because he knew.

Mora smiled and drifted through the oval window in the living room. His passage stirred the deka tree's branches. He cleared the tree and shot eastward without looking back. When he reached the horizon of everything he knew, he picked up speed and kept going, trusting his love for Leruu to guide him to her side.

The finality of everything struck as soon as Bajor shrank from his sight. Its host star, a yellow G-class, shone like a newly-lit flame in the cold, silent void.

The Bajoran solar system was a mere dot among many dusting the black vastness.

Mora soared through time and space until the G-class star he kept dreaming about came into focus.

All at once he found himself standing face to face with Leruu. She'd taken her hair down, and it fell in blonde waves about her shoulders.

"Relax, my love," Mora kissed Leruu's forehead. "I'm here now."

"Pol," Leruu gasped. "Pol, the baby is moving."

Mora calmly helped her lay back against a slanted, mossy rock jutting through the orange grass. He eased the hem of her white birthing shift past her knees and rolled up his own white sleeves.

"Awake, child."

"We await you with love," gasped Leruu.

"And welcome you into the world," Mora finished.

Leruu's chest heaved, but her face remained peaceful.

New light glimmered when the baby crowned. The amniotic sac that protected it for so long still covered its head like a veil.

"That's it, Leruu. Relax, let it happen."

The baby's head emerged and twisted to one side.

"Pol..." Leruu's toes gripped at the grass. Her face flushed. She threw her head back, moaning as though making love. "Oh...oh, Prophets, Pol, my love...Pol!"

Suddenly, the baby slipped effortlessly into Mora's waiting hands. It was still in the caul, looking at him.

Mora peeled away the amniotic membrane. The baby gulped its first raspy breath and its dull glow became a brilliant light.

Tears poured down Mora's cheeks. "Leruu...we have a son!" He knelt beside his beautiful wife, happier than he'd ever been in his life. The infant in his arms let out a strong wail.

"A son." Leruu panted. She wrapped her arms around the tiny, pink newborn. "Olan. We have our Olan."

Olan stopped crying at the sound of Leruu's voice. His green eyes opened wide, taking in the world around him.

Mora kissed Olan's tiny nose ridges. Then he kissed Leruu's.

They huddled together, unmindful of the blood and vernix staining their clothes.

"He has your eyes!" Mora exclaimed in delight. "And his hair matches yours, but look, that's my cleft chin."

"He has your lips, too." Leruu nuzzled him. "And your hands."

"I can't believe you made that."

"We made this."

They chuckled. Mora placed his thumb on Olan's miniature palm, and those tiny fingers held on tight. So soft, so warm, so precious. Everything was there. Ten fingers with impossibly small fingernails and ten perfectly stubby toes. Mora gazed skyward to thank the Prophets.

A huge gray-green crescent moon rose in the east. It took up a sixth of the sky! And above it, the Milky Way had two disarrayed central hubs. Massive, colorful lobes of star birth hugged the eastern horizon.

"We're finally here," he whispered. "You brought me to the planet."

"You weren't ready until now," Leruu replied, hugging Olan close. "This solar system, your namesake, survived the galactic collision."

"I'm five billion years away now?" Mora raised both eyebrows. "I can't believe it." He grinned at his newborn son. "Olan, can you believe it?"

"Do you know what you're looking at, Pol?" Leruu blew warm air against his ear. "You silly scientists, you never see the forest for the trees, do you?"

"Leruu..."

"Pol..." She mimicked his playful tone.

Mora felt the ground ripple beneath him and his breath caught in his throat. He touched the soft grass. His gaze shifted skyward.

"Yes." Leruu spoke tenderly. "This is their evolution. Their lives always revolved around yours, Pol. Just as yours revolved around mine. You're part of the star, and they watch over it as you watched over them."

"How did-- "

She covered his mouth, her quiet laughter like music in his ears. "Let's not unravel every mystery yet, my sweet scientist."

"They...did this for me?"

"Yes."

Mora chewed his bottom lip.

"I promised Kejal that I wouldn't forget him...or Odo."

"And you won't." Leruu nudged him with her elbow. "Will you stay and watch the sunrise?"

"Yes, my darling." He kissed Olan's brow. Then he kissed Leruu's lips. "I'm ready to stay." He kissed her again. "I love you."

She grinned, her green eyes sparkling. "I love you, too."

They sat on the grass together. Mora cradling Olan, and Leruu embracing him from behind.

Dawn's first light came, but the stars and moon never dimmed. The burning white sun rose into the hazy Milky Way, turning the heavens blue.

Mora watched the filamentary structure of the universe spread across the sky. Every particle, every galaxy...even the afterglow cast by the cosmic microwave background shimmered in the vastness. He saw molecules congeal into radiant DNA chains, and he traced their atoms backwards to the big bang. He watched entire worlds rise and fall. He witnessed beginnings and endings and everything in between.

Everywhere he looked he saw energy creating life.

His pagh was energy.

Energy fueled life.

Life was...

Suddenly, the wormhole spiraled open before him. Deep in its center, the eternal moment of creation emitted a luminescence greater than a billion quasars. He saw it earlier in Odo and Kejal, and he noticed it coming from Leruu, Olan and himself.

Everything in existence came from that point.

Mora gazed deeply into the scientific and the divine. The truth flooded his mind.

Living beings longed to touch the brilliance that gave them life, never realizing its glow already suffused their genes.

Love is creation. I AM love, and love never dies.

Mora Pol laughed joyfully at the revelation as he, his wife and his son became the light.


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